$2 million gift announced to KIA's Kirk Newman Art School

Posted: March 7, 2015
Source: Katie Houston
Job Title: Marketing & PR Coordinator
Phone: 269-585-9297
Email: katieh@kiarts.org

KALAMAZOO, MI - The Kirk Newman School of Art at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts has announced a $2 million gift to the school from Kalamazoo residents Rosemary and John Brown. The couple, together with Kirk Newman and KIA leadership, made the announcement March 6 at a reception at the institute.

"Our decision to give to the Kirk Newman Art School at the KIA is based on our admiration of Kirk as a person and on our desire to validate his legacy," said Rosemary Brown. "Our hope is that the school will continue to thrive and to have an ongoing positive influence on the cultural life of the Kalamazoo area."

Kirk Newman was in attendance. He was a long-time director of the art school and an art instructor for nearly 30 years, after arriving in the late 1950s with the University of Michigan extension service. Newman's cast bronze, People, is one of the exterior sculptures that welcomes guests to the KIA's South Street entrance.

Calling it a "gift to the community," art school director and painting instructor Denise Lisiecki shared the school's immediate plans for the gift, which include offering broader access to first-time students through scholarships and studio upgrades.

Starting with this month's Young Artists of Kalamazoo County exhibition, area art teachers will be allowed to select two students each to receive merit- and need-based art awards - up to a total of 150 scholarships. Additional scholarships will be awarded to the teachers themselves in order to take summer art classes. The KIA hopes to expand both scholarship programs next year.

Funds will also be earmarked to target underserved audiences with full scholarships.

"We are thrilled to have substantive new scholarships to expand the reach of the nearly 300 classes we offer each year to more artists of all ages throughout the community," said Executive Director Belinda Tate. Currently, the KIA annually provides upwards of $40,000 in scholarships to 200 students.

The school is also launching a post-baccalaureate residency for advanced art students. Six recent college graduates will be awarded seven-month residencies to begin in the fall: two in painting, two in printmaking, one in photography/digital media, and one in ceramics. Applications will be available online starting March 30, and are due June 1. Recipients will be announced July 13.

Denise Lisiecki has been heading the art school since 1996, when enrollment was 2,200. Today it is upwards of 3,000, and she is among a roster of 75 professional artists who teach classes at the KIA.

"Every term, we hear gratitude from students for what we do," said Lisiecki. "We hear thanks for a new technique, or a creative breakthrough, or for helping deal with grief or stress. At the least, we help people reconnect with their creativity. This gift from Rosemary and John means we can continue to do that, to serve our community, and enrich it for the future."